David S. Jasmer
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Suit against DES manufacturer is settled on second day

Pharmaceutical companies that manufactured or marketed a synthetic estrogen decades ago may be held liable for the effects they are having on the children of the women who consumed the drug. Product liability suits have been filed by women from around the country, with one case of four sisters resulting in a settlement. The details of this settlement are unclear but the fact that it was settled may spawn other similar cases.

According to the plaintiffs, their mother consumed DES-also known as diethylstilbestrol-during the pregnancies that resulted in the birth of the four sisters. They allege that their mother's consumption of this drug led to the contraction of breast cancer in all four sisters during their 40s. Each of them was diagnosed between 1997 and 2003 with varying strengths of cancer: some of them had lump-removal surgery while at least one of them was treated with chemotherapy and had to undergo a full mastectomy. The four of them have a fifth, younger sister who did not develop breast cancer-interestingly, their mother did not consume DES during her pregnancy.

The siblings allege that Eli Lilly and Co. was the manufacturer or marketer of the drug their mother consumed before it was taken off the market during the 1970s. The problem with this is that DES was not trademarked and was made by many different companies. DES was prescribed to millions of women during the 30 years it was available-it was used to prevent premature births and miscarriages but it was later found that it did nothing to eliminate miscarriages.

The drug has already been associated with fertility problems as well as cervical and vaginal cancer. Though the company did not admit fault, it did settle the case during the second day of testimony. This was the first case involving more than a dozen companies and more than 50 women, including the four sisters.

Source: Quincy Herald-Whig, "Eli Lilly settles Mass. pregnancy drug-cancer case," Denise Lavoie, Jan. 10, 2013

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